“Stephen Middleton” is not a name you’d put with a guy who spontaneously freestyles hip-hop to open for Common—at less than a moment’s notice. But Middleton, along with a group of electronic media and film students at Towson University’s College of Fine Arts and Communications, just produced this.
Every dance-beat lyric and quick-cut shot in “TU Anthem” describes why Middleton became passionate about TU almost as soon as he arrived as a transfer student his junior year.
“I tell everyone all the time that one of the best decisions that I ever made in life was transferring to Towson,” Middleton says, “because of all the opportunities and life experiences that I got here that I would have never had.”
Now Middleton is graduating, with a dual degree in mass communications and electronic media and film. But besides the cap and gown and that degree in his hand, this video was how he wanted to walk away.
“I wanted to be a trailblazer and leave my mark on this institution, the university that has given so much to me and provided me with so much knowledge and so much experience, and give back to it,” he explains.
Middleton thought fitting in as a transfer student might be a challenge. It turned out to be anything but. Open mic nights led to hosting Ebony Lounge, the talent showcase put on by the Black Student Union. He sang with Purrrfect Pitch. People saw his talent and asked him to do about a dozen other gigs.
There was no invitation in December 2012 when Common came to campus. Middleton was helping a friend report on the event for her entertainment news website. But then there was a delay as Common was heading to the stage, and Middleton got called up by one of the program organizers.
“Her words, verbatim—I will never forget these words—she said, ‘You would fashion yourself somewhat of a wordsmith, yes?’” Middleton recalls. “And I said, ‘Absolutely!’ and she said, ‘Okay, show the people what you got.’” She handed him the mic.
“I had no idea what was going to happen. But it was one of the most spontaneous and electrifying experiences of my life.”
In many ways, Middleton has made his own success. But he says Towson is the reason he’s been able to shine.
“The thing that is different, I feel, about this school than other schools is that a lot of those friendships that are created are truly genuine,” he says. “It’s not like they’re just trying to meet you because you’re some sort of star or a celebrity or around campus. I’ve just met so many amazing people on this campus that are going to be friends for a very long time.”
“It’s just so refreshing and comforting to know that at a university like this, you have a voice.”